Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cash Shortage Threatens Ambitious Etext Project

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cash Shortage Threatens Ambitious Etext Project

Article excerpt

Michael S. Hart's dream of putting 10,000 books online is looking more and more impossible.

Hart is the creator, director, heart and soul of Project Gutenberg, a 25-year-old undertaking to convert historical documents and literary classics into electronic texts free on the Internet. So far, Hart and a band of 700 volunteer scriveners have transcribed 700 books into electronic form, what Hart calls "etexts."

Works available from the Project Gutenberg Web site, http://promo.net/pg/, include everything from Cicero to Theodore Dreiser's "Sister Carrie," as well as documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. All can be copied without legal penalty. Project Gutenberg isn't the only electronic library online - Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have similar projects. But it is the oldest and remains one of the largest, most well-known collections. Its Web site receives nearly one "hit" a second, says Hart, who works from his Urbana, Ill., home. However, the scant financial support Hart received over the years has all but dried up, threatening his ability to continue, let alone attain his goal of putting 10,000 books online by the turn of the century. "I've got people running around in circles to find (funding), but I don't have any answers," Hart said. Hart, 49, has stored Project Gutenberg files on computers at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana since starting the project as a student there in the early 1970s. He claims the relationship has soured recently, and he isn't sure if the school will continue its support. University officials did not return calls for comment. Earlier this year, Hart lost a $12,000-a-year post as an adjunct profe ssor of electronic text at Benedictine University, the result of a budget shortfall that forced the suburban Chicago school to cut back some programs. "We'd like to continue to support Michael but we don't have the bucks," said Rev. David Turner, the school's chaplain. Hart also collects royalties from sales of Gutenberg texts compiled on CD-ROM and marketed by Walnut Creek CDROM, http://www. …

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